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Eastman violins and violas


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#1 Gordon Shumway

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Posted 27 May 2019 - 11:10

I've got a Stentor Conservatoire II violin and I'm very happy with it.

But the only violas at the place that sold it to me are Eastman.

Anyone got an Eastman instrument, and, if so, what are they like?


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#2 tulip21

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Posted 27 May 2019 - 16:58

In general, Eastman makes nice, warm and rich sounding student instruments. If you're looking for a new instrument, best way to find your ideal match is to try out a whole bunch in your price range.
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#3 Gordon Shumway

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Posted 27 May 2019 - 17:09

In general, Eastman makes nice, warm and rich sounding student instruments. If you're looking for a new instrument, best way to find your ideal match is to try out a whole bunch in your price range.

Easier said than done! a) I don't know what my price range is; b) my violin supplier (Thestringzone) has only one brand, as mentioned; c) Bridgewood and Neitzert start at £2,500, which is out of my range, I guess, since I expect to spend £2,000 on a violin package from them next spring.


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#4 fsharpminor

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Posted 27 May 2019 - 17:35

Liz at Elida Trading (a forum member) may offer you good advice.


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#5 Flossie

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Posted 27 May 2019 - 18:07

Your profile indicates that you are in the London area? There should be plenty of places within less than 3 hours travel time who would have instruments in your price range for you to try.

When I upgraded my viola 3 years ago, one of the cello teachers in the area recommended Eastmann instruments as being better than other instruments in their price range. I didn't try one myself because neither the shop in the nearest major city (an hour and a half away) or a more local violin shop stocked anything above an entry-level Stentor in the size I needed (15 inch). Neither was prepared to order an instrument in without me committing to purchasing it. The supplier would not allow them to return the instrument if I didn't want it, and there isn't really any demand for upgrade-level 15 inch violas in this area. In the end, I visited Cardiff for a weekend and got a lovely viola from Cardiff violins. I tried several instruments and ended up getting one of their own brand Chinese ones. They tweaked the set up slightly while I was there to better suit the sound I wanted. Similarly, when I upgraded my flute a number of years ago I had to go all the way down to London. From here, if you want anything above a beginner's instrument, and want to try before buying, you need to be prepared to travel for a number of hours. You should be spoilt for choice in comparison, living near London.
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#6 Flossie

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Posted 27 May 2019 - 18:25

Caswells look like they have a number of upgrade level violas available at the moment. It might also be worth talking to Elida Violins to see what she has.

Have you upgraded your current viola as far as possible, including your bow? My original Primavera 100 (Stentor 1 equivalent) was fine to around grade 7 with an improved set up and upgraded bow.
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#7 Gordon Shumway

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Posted 27 May 2019 - 19:04

Yes, Cardiff Violins had been recommended before, and I realised that I should have checked them before posting here.

I bought a chinrest from someone, it might have been Caswells, and it came in nothing but a jiffy bag for protection, which I thought was totally inadequate, so I'd have to check who the supplier was before ordering anything else from them.

I don't have a viola at the moment. I was looking at the Eastman Master.

Looking at Cardiff now. As long as I stick with the intermediates, they don't hide all the prices.


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#8 Flossie

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Posted 27 May 2019 - 22:27

I assumed that you already played the viola, given that you are looking at the upgrade/intermediate level instruments. If you are new to viola, you will need to try some out to check what size you need. Playing a full size violin does not automatically mean that you will want a standard 16 inch viola. I play a full size violin and a 15 inch viola (my original 15.5 inch was too big and the size was causing problems with technique and with my shoulder). At the same time, I know people who play a full size violin and a 16.5 or 17 inch viola. Smaller violas tend to involve some compromise in sound and below 15.5 inches the choice of strings available is more limited (you can get good strings for 15 inch violas - I currently use Vision Solos and have previously used Obligato A/D/G with a Dominant C - but don't have the full range of choices e,g. I would love to try Evahs).

Remember that you will need to budget for a bow and case. Viola cases vary in size, so you will need to chose your case once you know the measurements of your viola.

I have never had problems with Caswells. When they sent me some bows on trial a few years ago, they came in a hard case.
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#9 Flossie

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Posted 27 May 2019 - 23:22

Why not hire a viola to start with, and then have a proper look when you know what you want from the instrument and have the technique needed to test them out properly?

I started on a Primavera 100 viola (as a grade 6-7 violin player). I got the set up improved quite early on and then upgraded my bow when I started working on grade 4ish music. I upgraded from the Primavera to my current viola at around grade 7 because it could not give me the range of tone colours required and the size of the viola was causing problems (I would have had to get a smaller instrument anyway, so it was a sensible time to upgrade). Had I upgraded earlier, as a grade 4-5 player, I would not have been able test the instruments thoroughly enough to find what really suited me. I would quite possibly have been seduced by one I tried which had a really nice tone on the lower strings in 1st position but was weaker in the higher positions and stopped harmonics.

There are differences between violin technique and viola technique (it isn't just a case of the instrument's larger so you need your fingers further apart) and you won't be able to test the instruments properly if you haven't played before. The instrument's response is as important as it's tone and you will need to test that across the full range of the instrument using a variety of bowing techniques, dynamics and tone colours. I have found that violas with the uniform 'warm' sound often favoured by adult beginners can be more limiting because they don't give you anything other than that sound - they won't give you a bright sound when the music requires it, whereas a slightly brighter instrument can also give a rich warm sound when you tell it to through the way you play. Instruments which have warmth but lack responsiveness can be quite lifeless and would limit repertoire choices at grade 8 or diploma level. An intermediate instrument which is responsive would take you to diploma standard. I've had to take a bit of a break from viola due to work pressures, but had got up to around grade 8 standard and my playing was still very much the limiting factor and not my viola (whereas the viola was the limiting factor when I upgraded - my teacher couldn't get the response required from my primavera viola either).
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#10 Gordon Shumway

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Posted 28 May 2019 - 06:23

If you are new to viola, you will need to try some out to check what size you need. 

My violin teacher is a violist, and she says I can handle a 16" easily (hers is 15"). If I buy a viola, it will last me the rest of my life, so I may as well get a reasonable intermediate one, and a standard sized one. Brexit may double the price of German and French factory instruments, so I fear I ought to dive in this summer.

 

Someone made the comment that there must be a lot of shops in London. Yes, one would imagine that (Oh, I've re-read the thread. Flossie commented that there must be a lot of shops within 3 hours' travel from me. Hmm, yes, I remember seeing a website for one in Northants). Such shops in London aren't that common. There's a well known one that has ripped off my teacher twice (I have to be careful with names so as not to commit libel), which narrows the choice. And you also have to be wary of the specialist shops. Like I say, Bridgewood and Neizert violas begin at £2,500, and Guivier had a bow for £27,000, but that seems to have been sold now!


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#11 Gordon Shumway

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Posted 29 May 2019 - 10:54

Remember that you will need to budget for a bow and case. 

Yes, the supplier has one Eastman Master in stock, but it's viola only. I think I'll hold fire and buy a nice outfit when I see one. Otoh, an outfit might come with a bow that could usefully be upgraded immediately. Maybe that's pessimistic - my Stentor bow isn't too bad. (worth £40 they tell me, so a bow with a £1,000 viola might be proportionately better. Otoh, I quite like CF at these low prices, and outfit bows all seem to be wood)


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